Drivers Grading On A Next Gen Curve At Daytona

NASCAR Cup Series drivers got closer to racing conditions in the Next Gen car at Daytona International Speedway this week. (Image: James Gilbert | Getty Images)

Eight NASCAR Cup Series Drivers took to the high banks of Daytona International Speedway over the last two days. This time, in the new Next Gen race car. Drivers like William Byron, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and others put the new car to the test in the draft.

This was the first time the new car had been in a drafting situation. Drivers were pleased for the most part and shared their thoughts on the aero package that was used, what needs work, and what fell good.

Joey Logano – “It’s like any new car. There’s some low-hanging fruit and some areas to gain. It’s not fully refined like the vehicle we’ve been using for the past 10 years. Over time we’ll get there. But it takes laps, it takes these race teams a lot of smart people working on it to get there.

Overall, Logano was pleased with the new car. “We’re making gains, getting closer.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – On the other hand, Stenhouse said that JTG Daugherty got their cars three weeks ago and were “just ok” in the test as they had to work through some unknowns.

“Some of the cars seemed to be really dancing around loose. But all in all, ours drove really good and felt comfortable. Just trying to figure out how we’re going to make better racing.”

Stenhouse added, “We need to make sure we can pass, get good runs–create good racing. I thought we all did a good job simulating racing as much as we could, Really working all the lanes.”

Denny Hamlin – “It’s a race car, it’s got four tires and a steering wheel. So from my standpoint, it doesn’t change greatly. But still, there are some nuances.”

This was the first time Hamlin made laps in the Next Gen car and he found some small things that impacted him in the car. “Your vision is a little different. The shifting is going to be different, especially when you go into road courses. So you’re going to want to get as many reps as you can to learn that. Any chance that I can get to get in it to be better acclimated, the better off I’ll be.”

William Byron – “I thought it went really well. We got really aggressive there in that second drafting session. I felt like we were all pushing each other to make moves, and everyone was pretty comfortable with it so that was really good to see.”

Byron did notice the speed in the car, and the difference he felt compared to his current Camaro. “It’s within a second or two, I don’t know exactly. It feels a little bit slower. You have a little bit more time to think on the speedways. But I like that. I think it kind of lets you think more about the moves.”

William Byron test the Next Gen car in preparation for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Season. (Image: James Gilbert | Getty Images)

Ross Chastain – “The biggest difference day-to-day was the package we went to with the smaller spoiler and lower horsepower. I thought it was worse for maneuverability and us to be able to race, but there were only eight of us so it was tough to build any momentum as it is. I think that would be the case with our current car as well. I think a little bit higher horsepower and a bigger spoiler, something to make the hole behind the car in front bigger. I think when the air comes across the belly pan, there’s too much air and the trailing car can’t catch up to a certain extent, not like we can now.”

Chastain also said they are working on a lot of different set-up changes. “We still need to find what makes this car happy.”

Cole Custer – “I would say it’s kind of like jumping into the unknown. There’s so many things you don’t know what it’s going to be like. It’s pretty much rethinking the whole way we race. We’re going over things we never would have thought of to go over with our other car.”

Custer added, “It was great to get into the draft and really get to see how these cars feel different from each other.”

However, some drivers did not like the aero change on day two with the lower horsepower. You can put the driver of the No. 3 into this category of thinking that change was good for the draft.

Austin Dillon – “We made a package change from the first day to the second day and I think it was really good for the draft, taking the spoiler down a little bit. Came off the horsepower and I thought the draft looked better. Handling-wise, learning some stuff, still working on the steering, it’s a little quick. But all in all, I think it was a great test.”

Dillon also said, “We didn’t wreck any of these cars which is certainly a good thing.”

Austin Dillon reflects on the day in Daytona. (Image: James Gilbert | Getty Images)

With all of the discussions about aero, drafting, and set-up changes, one driver focused on a key element that’s good for them – comfort.

Chris Buescher – “Inside, we’re working on getting some stuff figured out to make it a little more comfortable. The rearview camera is something that is really neat there, learned a lot about it in the runs and the drafting runs there. You can actually see quite a bit more than you’re used to. I used the camera a lot, and the spotter up on the roof to learn where cars are and be able to start getting a gauge of how close they really are.”

Buescher said, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear, the same can be said for the camera.”

Overall, NASCAR and the drivers were pretty happy with the final outcome of the 2-day test at Daytona.

It has been a long road to getting the Next Gen car on track. (Image: James Gilbert | Getty Images)

John Probst – NASCAR Senior Vice President, Racing Innovation – “Our main goals coming down to Daytona were to develop a tire with Goodyear that we could come back with in February. Speed was a focus as well for NASCAR.  We were really close to the speeds we’re looking for, but we only had eight cars in the draft. We wanted to make sure that we’re conservative coming back here and need to have something in our back pocket should we get here and speeds are too high.

Overnight we changed the taped spacer and made it smaller, to about 510 horsepower, and reduced the rear spoiler to seven inches. That had the desired effect today, we did slow the cars down some. The feedback from the drivers was that it wasn’t a radical change from one to the next, so we feel like we now have that data to evaluate coming back here.

We obviously have a list of things to work on coming out of here. We have to work on the heat in the car; we have some ideas there. We used the afternoon today to try some big swings at things and found some directions to go, so I feel like we made some really big gains there.”

Probst said that NASCAR does plan to bring the cars back in January for a pre-season test.

Stephen Conley

If it races, I'll write about it, talk about it or shoot it with a camera.

I began pursuing a career in motorsports journalism immediately after attending college at Kent State University. I have hosted multiple Motorsports talk shows, worked in Country Music radio, and now i spend every day on the air in the morning with 1300 and 100.9 WMVO and in the afternoons watching the roadways around Central Ohio for 93.7 WQIO.

The excitement and the fans make everything I put out there worth while, it's been an exciting 15 years having covered everything from the Daytona 500 to the Rolex 24 and you can find me at pretty much any event run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

What I like to bring is a look behind the scenes, a look at what and who makes the sport grow. From the guy that welds pieces back at the shop to the host in the tv booth.

Everyone has a story and I like to tell it. My main focus here at TPF is looking at the men and women behind the microphone and cameras.

My life long goal is to become a member of MRN or PRN Radio and bring the races to you. I hope that what I share now is enjoyable and gives you a unique look in to the world of motorsports.

See you at a track soon

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